Aerobic Exercise vs. Weight Training

Published in Family Medicine Author: David Ross,MD,MBA

Most people know that exercise of any kind burns calories.  What few know, however, is that we burn more calories each day doing “nothing”.  Our basal metabolism is what keeps the machinery of the body running, even at rest, and is responsible for the majority of calories burned in any given day.  Inheritance greatly affects basal metabolism, which is why some people can eat anything and remain thin, while others have to be more careful.

The good news is that each person CAN accelerate their basal metabolism through exercise.  Quite simply, it takes a lot of calories to maintain muscle mass.  By increasing muscle mass through exercise, we not only burn calories while we exercise, but burn more calories every day sitting in the recliner or even sleeping due to an increase in “resting” metabolism.

The problem: it has been drilled into our minds that the way to burn fat is aerobic exercise.  While aerobic exercise is great for overall fitness, the way to burn the most fat is to burn the most calories.  The most calories are burned using weight machines or free weights, because this activity increases muscle mass and therefore increases resting metabolism.

The proof:

                                                                                    Aerobic Exercise          Weight Training

Calories burned in one hour of exercise                             210                                 650

Calories burned 2 hours later                                               25                                   42

Additional calories burned 3-39 hours                                   0                                  544

After exercise as a result of exercise:

Total Calories Burned                                                         235                               1,236

This is a 526% difference in calories burned!  See you at the gym!

Note: the above numbers taken from a joint study involving the University of Illinois, Columbia University, Palo Alto Musculoskelatal Research Laboratory, Purdue University, Stanford University, Uppsala University, Penn State University and the University of Texas.